Progress Report: Your Preschooler's Milestones

More Preschooler Development Milestones

Communicate Clearly With Others

"As a rule of thumb, a stranger should be able to understand about 75 percent of what a 3-year-old says and 90 percent or more of a 4-year-old's speech," says Dr. Shu. If your child's diction still seems garbled, try to figure out if her mouth muscles are working properly. Some signs of underdeveloped muscles are difficulty eating, drinking, giving kisses, and blowing raspberries. If she is having trouble making herself understood, take her to see a speech language pathologist. "In most cases, poor muscle development can improve with time and appropriate exercises," says Dr. Shu.

Follow Multistep Instructions

Not only is your preschooler a more sophisticated speaker, but he's also becoming a better listener. "A kid this age can follow instructions that require several steps, and since 3- and 4-year-olds tend to be eager to please, they usually respond well to direction," says Dr. Shu. However, preschoolers still need some guidance, so be as specific as possible. "Go clean your room" is too vague for a child this age. Instead, try saying, "Please put all of the building blocks in the yellow basket and place the pillows and stuffed animals back on your bed."

Cooperate Better With Pals

Preschoolers can really get swept away in make-believe scenarios with their friends. "Not only do kids this age have a richer imagination and more advanced language skills to express their ideas, but they are learning how to take turns, both in play and conversation," says Dr. Brown. "For a 2-year-old, a conversation is an opportunity to talk about herself. A kid who is 3 or 4 wants reciprocity. She'll ask questions, demand feedback, and collaborate on pretend scenarios with her friends." In turn, preschoolers' dramatic play, whether it's pirates or house, helps them further refine their social and communication skills. Encourage imagination games by providing a treasure chest of scarves, chunky jewelry, hats, and other dress-up fare.

Play Outdoor Games

Whereas most 2-year-olds lack the muscle coordination and sustained focus necessary to play games like catch or hopscotch, preschoolers should be able to throw overhead, catch a bounced ball most of the time, and balance or hop on one foot for about five seconds. "This is a great age to play casual 'sports' with your kid, like kicking a soccer ball around in the backyard," says Dr. Brown. Preschoolers are also able to understand the rules of games like tag and hide-and-seek and are beginning to grasp the concept of playing fair.

Originally published in the July 2011 issue of Parents magazine.

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